Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Just call me Willie Nelson

"On the road again . . . . "  That describes how we will spend the weekend.  After being home with enough time to do the laundry we all depart on Friday for three weeks giving retreats.  I will travel with Michael and Jaume by car to Melbourne.  Ten hours (minimum) away.  Will spend the night there and then leave early in the AM for a short jaunt (relatively speaking) of three hours to Warrnambool where I get out while the other two proceed to their placements.  

Warrnambool is on the coast.  As in it is a three-block walk from the parish to the beach.  It is quite a tourist town during the summer and will have many visitors this weekend for the annual horse races.  Beachniks do not fret.  It is going to be much too cold to swim.  Remember, it is mid-autumn here.  The lows will be in the 40's.   I checked Warrnambool out via Google satellite.  It looks great.  And, at 33,000 population is a very large town by Australian standards.  

Some thoughts on taking animal photos.  I can understand the challenge of hunting.  Though I don't hunt I have no objections to it.  I simply can't handle a gun.  Every time I went to a rifle range, say in boy scout camp (once, only once and never again) I was a less than good shot.  Because of tinnitus for the past twenty years, the sound of a gun going off in my ear would not be pleasant.  However, pursuit with a camera is analogous.  There is something exciting about getting close enough to get a decent photo or, I assume, a good shot.

The photos of the deer were purely accidental.  I was sitting on a log trying to get some shots of a rainbow lorikeet (a bird).  Looked up and the deer (there are not many here) was staring at me.  He stayed around long enough for about a dozen shots.

Photographing kangaroos is a real sport.  Several things about them.  
1.  They don't see well.  That was a plus.  I was wearing a gray (Penn State) hooded sweatshirt with the hood up, a dark blue windbreaker (guess what was written over the left breast), black jeans and black sneaks.  It was overcast. They seemed unfazed when they saw me because I suspect I looked like at 5'10" visiting kangaroo.  
2.  They hear and smell very well.  The good news was that I was upwind.  And, it had rained all night and thus no snapping twigs or crackling grass; factors which scared them off on previous expeditions, resulting in shots taken from quite a distance.
3.  They are apparently not too bright.  At one point it was able to put a tree between them and me and advance much closer much faster.  A video of this venture would have been hilarious.  I looked like a demented tai chi practitioner, slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch (and no one said Niagara Falls!).  They were blissfully chomping on grass.  At one point they were only 10 yards away.   
4.  The joeys are cute.   See below.
5.  They are very fast.  The photo below was one of the few I got without complete blurring because it was shot at ISO 800 rather than 100. 
6.  They are affectionate.  These last two blew my mind.  
Right after this shot they hopped away.  Given that I had spent at least 15  minutes taking pix (shot over 100) it was time to give up the pursuit.  

Later on I will try to post a few photos from the trip to the Adelaide Zoo.  

It is getting late.  Time for sleep.  Pack tomorrow and leave by 6 AM Friday. 

+Fr. Jack

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Homily for Easter Sunday . . . and some flowers

Easter Sunday
24 April 2011

Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Ps 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Col 3:1-4
Jn 20:1-9

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

The words of the psalm began circumnavigating the globe here in Sydney hours ago.  The celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection is underway here in Australia as the East Coast of the United States is still preparing for the exquisite liturgy of the Easter Vigil that will begin in about two more hours.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. 

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is a concise summary of Jesus’ life beginning with His baptism and ending with His death on the cross. And then we hear the commission to the apostles. The commission to preach.  To preach the message of our salvation.  That message of salvation is the reason we are to rejoice and be glad.  Jesus is the one set apart. Those who believe in him have  forgiveness of sins through His name.

As St. Paul so memorably wrote in the Letter to the Romans:  “God showed his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.  Jesus, fully Divine and fully human, Son of God and Son of Mary, died for our sins.  We are sinners.  But, we are sinners loved by God.  We are sinners redeemed by Jesus’ passion and death in a redemption made manifest in His resurrection from the dead.  What more can we say than? . . . .

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. 

Imagine the scene described in John’s Gospel.  In the early morning dark Mary Magdalene made her way to the tomb.  Was it cold or warm?  How good was the lamp that lit her way?  Did she stumble?  What did the road feel like under her feet?  Imagine the heaviness in her limbs; the heaviness familiar to any one of us who has grieved; who has gone to the cemetery the day after burying a loved one with that leaden-limbed feeling that makes each step an effort. 

Then imagine the fear; the rush of adrenaline, as she saw that the heavy stone had been moved.  She didn’t even look into the tomb but ran for Peter and the others. 

Immediately, the apostles were sprinting for the tomb.  What did they feel?  Anger?  Fear?  Disbelief?  Probably all of the above as well as other feelings.  The same kind of feelings we experience daily.  John got to the tomb first; but fear kept him from entering.  He knelt, looked and stopped.  Peter, who only a couple of days earlier thrice denied knowing Jesus, entered followed by John.   They saw the burial cloths rolled up. What did they feel?  What did they think?  Unlike our situation today, knowing  that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead,  joy was probably not one of the things they felt facing the empty tomb. 

The last line of this reading is in parentheses but it gives a crucial explanation to the apostles’ state of mind.  “Remember, as yet they did not understand the Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”   They did not yet understand. They did not REALLY understand, who this Jesus, with whom they had cast their lot for the past years, they did not understand who He really was.

That parenthetical comment explains the nature of our relationship with Jesus.  Despite Jesus’ action in our lives we don’t usually understand.  We don’t really get it.  We oftentimes fail to understand how great a gift Jesus was to us; how great the gift he gave to us.  The measure of that lack of understanding is found in how often we fail to give Him thanks for that gift.  How rarely we acknowledge that Jesus died for our sins; the sins of each of us, so that we need not fear the death of the body.  Ever.   

Just four months ago we were singing the Gloria in Excelsis Deo of Christmas Eve.  Today that Gloria is changed to Alleluia, He is Risen!  Alleluia.  Alleluia.

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad. 

The flower photos were taken at Sevenhill during various times of the retreat including a few during five straight days of rain.  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Friday

V.  Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.
R.  Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

V.  We adore Thee O Christ and we bless Thee.
R.  Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world

It is already Good Friday Morning in Sydney (5:00 PM Holy Thursday Night on the East Coast).  We are still in the early hours of the 50-plus  hour liturgy that marks the Sacred Triduum.  Mass on Holy Thursday began with the Sign of the Cross but did not finish with the usual blessing.  Rather we processed out of the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament chanting the Pange Lingua Gloriosi as the Sacrament was taken to the altar of repose.  This afternoon the tripartite liturgy will neither begin nor end with the Sign of the Cross.  Similarly, on Saturday night  there will be no Sign of the Cross to begin the liturgy as the Paschal candle is blessed.  Only at the end of the Easter Vigil Mass will the Sign of the Cross be made over us, signaling the end of the prolonged liturgy.  That will be followed by the dismissal and the double Alleluia that marks the Easter Season.

Today is a day of fast, abstinence and recollection.  Holy Saturday is a particularly odd day.  Until after dark the Church is in a holding pattern.  No liturgies of any kind, no funerals, weddings, or any other kind of service is possible.  Only viaticum, communion taken to those who are at imminent risk of death, is permitted. 

The second reading from the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday describes the sense of the Church and her individual members: “Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness.  The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep.  The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began.  God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.” (From The Liturgy of the Hours, Catholic Book Publishing, New York).  And so it goes as we commemorate Jesus’ passion and death. 

Very early in the long retreat each of us, in his meditation, stood in front of the cross as instructed by Ignatius:  “Imagine Christ our Lord present before you upon the cross, and begin to speak with Him, asking how it is that though He is the creator, He has stooped to become man, and to pass from eternal life to death here in time, that thus He might die for our sins.  I shall also reflect on myself and ask:

What have I done for Christ?
What am I doing for Christ?
What ought I to do for Christ?”

The covered crucifix will be brought into the church in procession accompanied by a triple chant sung a tone higher each time. 
“This is the wood of the cross.
O come let us worship.”

As the chant is intoned a portion of the crucifix will be uncovered until it is entirely exposed to our view. 

As each of us waits to venerate the crucifix we might keep in mind another colloquy adapted from the one written by Ignatius. 

I shall also reflect on Jesus Christ Crucified and ask:
“What has Christ done for me?
What is Christ doing for me?
What will Christ do for me?”

V.  Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.
R.  Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Back in Sydney

We made it.  When we left Adelaide yesterday morning the sign said "Sydney 1398" (that is kilometers.  Multiply  by 0.6 to get the miles).  Spent the night in Hay which is just under halfway.  That took 8 hours.  Arrived in Sydney after a 9 hour drive.  The last hour being a nightmare in Sydney rush hour traffic.  

Details when I wake up some time Good Friday.  It is Wednesday night.  

+Fr. Jack

Sunday, April 17, 2011


It might be a good time to be a little systematic about the long retreat at Sevenhill, beginning with a brief description and some photos of the place.  Sevenhill Winery is the first winery in the Clare Valley in the state of South Australia.  It was begun by Silesian Jesuits in 1851.  There are now 35 wineries in the  Valley. 

Sevenhill sits on about 1000 acres of rolling land mostly covered with grapevines.  About 20% of production is altar wine exported to Asia.  The other wines are dinner wines which are sold in Australia as well as exported.  Sevenhill is just beginning to enter the U.S. market.  In Boston!  The wine is very good.  We had it often at dinner (in silence of course).  In reality I am more of a beer drinker but to my unsophisticated wine palate, it was good wine. 

There were twelve Jesuit tertians, two directors, and three other priests in the long retreat group.  There was not enough room in “the College” which is the main retreat house.  Six of us, five Jesuits, were in buildings about 2/3 mile down the road.  The house in which I stayed with two other men had been, until four years ago, an exclusive bed and breakfast called Thorn Park; set on 65 acres of rolling pasture land.  The Jesuits had owned the land, sold it in the ‘50’s and then repurchased it about 4 years ago.  Surprise would understate my feelings when I went in.  The place was beautiful, but it certainly didn't look like any retreat house I'd ever been in.  For the first three weeks there were a few things I couldn’t understand.  The furnishings were antique.  The headboard in my room was about 6 1/2 feet tall, made of very heavy dark wood.  The three bedrooms were each decorated according to a particular theme.  There were about a dozen teapots, with several dozen matching cups etc. on a shelf in the kitchen.  There were some very large kitchen appliances.  None of this fit with how Jesuits typically furnish and stock houses.  However, I stumbled across an article in the house from a wine and travel magazine describing a weekend at “Thorn Park” in the Clare Valley.  I noted the address was College Road,  which is where we were (it is not a long road).  Then the picture caught my eye.  It was the kitchen.  The kitchen in which I was sitting at that moment.  It appears we purchased the place fully furnished and stocked.  Which explained the hand-held froth maker for cappuccino (Huh?), the six burner kitchen stove, and the towel warmers in the bathrooms (that is definitely not Jesuit retreat house amenities).  A chat with community members after the retreat ended confirmed everything.  Sevenhill will remain one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been for an extended period of time.  Below are some photos of the grounds.

This first is the outside of the house.  The small roof covered a brick patio that went 3/4 of the way around the house.  We all spent a lot of time out there praying, meditating, and drinking coffee.

The photo below is the view from the porch toward the meadow across the road.  
The next is the road just off the driveway leading up to the College.  It was one of the rainy and foggy days. 

The next is a windmill in the meadow just to the right of the house.  I was fascinated by this and took photos from many angles. 

The last is a view from up behind the church looking down toward where the house was though it is not visible in the photo.  This was sunrise on the second repose day about 21 days into the retreat.  

As I said.  Beautiful.  

Am now in Adelaide, South Australia.  It is Palm Sunday night.  In two days we will begin the 20-hour drive back to Sydney.  I am less than thrilled at the prospect.  

Will try to post more photos tomorrow. 

+Fr. Jack

Friday, April 15, 2011

Long Retreat

The long retreat ended last night.  It is now 5:00 PM South Australia time (1/2 hour behind Sydney?!?).  It is 3:30 AM on the East Coast.  This will be short.  There were 577 e-mails to wade through, several of which needed replies, and I still don't know who won the NCAA basketball final.  Too bad about Penn State losing to Temple in the last few seconds but, I did graduate from Temple Medical School (which, if I must be honest, is absolutely no consolation). Nonetheless.  

I will write frequently over the next few days about the place in which we stayed (Sevenhill, South Australia) which was extremely beautiful.  Imagine 35 days on 1000 acres of active winery.  I could go on.  But, I will put up some photos (took about 2000).  

The first two need no explanation.  These represented a tremendous amount of work on my part.  Kangaroos are not easy to photograph.  

This is one of the thousand acres of grape vines.  

This is one of many sunsets.  More coming in subsequent posts. 

And finally the IHS on the side doors of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church on the grounds of the winery. 

With that, it is time to walk to the main house for dinner.  

+Fr. Jack